Monday, August 14, 2017

On Working From Home

I've worked from home the whole time I've had my current job--a pretty long time now.

It's not so much that I intended to work from home. But when I got this job offer, I had just moved to a new city, and wasn't able to just pack up again and move a second time. The person hiring me was also based in another city and knew that it was possible to be a productive member of a team and organization even if you're not based in the same city or office as your coworkers.

Since then, I've had family issues that tied me to one city, my wife has had a job opportunity that tied us to another city, and she's likely to have another one of those in the future. Relocating to the city where the office is located really just isn't in the cards. And besides, if I later switch companies, it would mean that I'd have to be moving again. This isn't like working in a restaurant, where I can just go down the road and apply at the next place in town. I work in a very specialized area inside of a technology company.

My intent wasn't to avoid the office. It wasn't to avoid meeting people in person. I understand the value of water cooler knowledge transfer. But I've been working remotely for a long time, and I know that it can work. I know that I can set a schedule, get up, and be productive. I interact with clients every day. Via phone calls, online meetings, and email messages. I help them solve problems, and I answer their questions.

I manage my team remotely. Most of them are based in one city, but that doesn't really help me any, because I'm not in that city. The vast majority of my team management interactions are via phone, email, online meeting, or online chat. I make a point of connecting with each team member at least once every day or two (notwithstanding the organic interactions that usually bring us together daily). I make sure that I reach out to them with positive feedback and good things to say. Not just complaints. Nothing's worse than a boss who only calls you when something bad has happened. It would make anyone afraid to answer the phone. So I try to be aware of it and try not to be like that.

Dealing with management has been pretty good overall. Most managers have understood that it's about the work, not which desk you sit at. Sometimes that has been a bit of a challenge, but those who talk most about team collaboration having to be "in person" might not understand exactly what my team does or what we're working on. Or that the team we collaborate with most often is actually located in another country.

I'm lucky that my employer offers this as an option and sees the value in it. Compared to say, Marissa Mayer's tenure at Yahoo, during which she made headlines by banning remote work. This article pointed out that operational teams don't necessarily benefit from in-person collaboration (which might be more necessary for development): "But there are other kinds of jobs that are operational -- rather than creative. For example, a person who helps solve a technical problem with Yahoo! Mail does not come up with new business ideas -- whether he works at home or in an office with other customer service people."

She even went on to say that "working from home" itself wasn't the problem -- and it sounded to me like there seemed to be a broader cultural issue relating to employee interaction.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Crab Claws and Cocaine

An idiot's observations of Miami and Miami Beach:

  1. Just before we moved, we asked somebody for restaurant ideas and they opened their response by saying Miami used to be crappy, known only for crab claws and cocaine. I've adopted that as my mantra -- whenever somebody asks me what the deal is with Miami, I now explain that it's all about crab claws and cocaine.
  2. There are a million "sushi and ceviche" restaurants. Why this combination? Probably because it's two ways to use raw fish, so perhaps less of their fish goes to waste. My wife and I like this, because I like sushi but not ceviche, and she likes ceviche but not sushi.
  3. There are pretty darn good locals specials during the week in Miami Beach. Can't beat $10 steak night at the Brazilian place.
  4. Dry cleaning/drop-off laundry is really expensive here. I got spoiled in Chicago, where it was actually cheap and affordable. It's now almost cheaper in Miami to just buy new cheap shirts and throw them out after one wear. (Just kidding...for now.)
  5. They aren't kidding about flooding. The sea is going to reclaim Miami someday soon. I can't believe there is anybody here who doesn't believe in global warming. 
  6. When it rains, it doesn't mean that the temperature is going to drop. It's going to be just as sweaty after the rain as it was before.
  7. So far, rainy season means it rains every day, but only for some small or medium part of the time. Meaning there's still a lot of opportunity to get out and walk around, which is great. But when it rains, it really comes down. If you get caught in that rain you are going to get crazy drenched.
  8. Every single grocery store or chain has different prices, and those prices are all over the map. There's still Aldi (and some other chains with low prices, like President Supermarket), but there's also really high end grocers where you can end up paying $10 for a (raw) chicken breast. One really has to pay attention to prices if you want to try to save money at all.
  9. Toll roads as far as the eye can see. Almost like every other highway is a toll road. Why? Because there's no state income tax, I assume. So they have to get the money from us to pay for the roads some how. So you think you're saving money on income taxes but you end up paying it back in user fees instead. And it's effectively a regressive tax, because it probably hits poorer people hardest. Somebody who has to drive to work at a low wage job gets hit a lot harder than somebody like me, who makes more money and works from home, so I can actually choose not to drive on the toll roads most of the time.